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A new 1000 Naira note as the Central Bank of Nigeria releases the notes to the public, December 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

What We’re Watching: Nigeria’s dwindling cash/patience, Bolsonaro’s next move, China's diplomatic European tour, Armenia’s olive branch

Nigeria’s currency crisis

It’s a little over a week before voters head to the polls in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, and temperatures on the streets are rising amid protests over a cash shortage. In November, outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari began a program of phasing out currencies of high denominations, saying it would help transition the country to a cashless economy and clamp down on the currency black market and inflation. The timing appears odd so close to an election, but Buhari’s explanation has been that the measure will curb vote buying. But fast forward three months, and banks are running low on cash, with people having to line up for hours to withdraw their own savings. After being told by the government to hand in large denomination notes in exchange for new wads of cash, many are being sent home empty-handed. This is particularly problematic because the West African country of more than 213 million is highly reliant on cash, with just 45% having access to a bank account in 2021. Violence is on the rise as frustrated Nigerians take to the streets, which presents increasing governance challenges ahead of the crucial Feb. 25 vote. In a bid to calm things down, Buhari announced Thursday that one of the three banknotes being phased out would remain legal for another two months. For more on what’s at stake, see this Q+A with Eurasia Group’s Africa expert Amaka Anku.

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Supporters of Labour Party candidate Peter Obi attend a campaign rally in Lagos.

Nyancho Nwanri/Reuters

Will this month’s presidential election bring change to Nigeria?

With less than two weeks until election day on Feb. 25, three leading candidates are locked in a tight race to be Nigeria’s next president. Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress and Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party have the backing of powerful get-out-the-vote operations. But Peter Obi of the Labour Party — who has promised to overhaul the country’s politics and create a “new Nigeria” — is leading several voting-intention surveys conducted in the run-up to the vote.

What does this all mean for the election outcome and the prospect for solutions to the country’s social and economic problems? We asked Eurasia Group expert Amaka Anku for her thoughts.

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